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In Lagos, indigenes and non-indigenes enjoy scholarships, bursaries – Fakolujo

Mr Omotoyo Fakolujo is the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Scholarship Board. In this interview with MURITALA AYINLA, he reveals how Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been so passionate about education and supporting residents’ academic pursuits through bursary and scholarships at different levels, among other laudable initiatives of the board

What exactly is the role of your board and how has it been impactful to Lagos residents?

First of all, let me just hint you on the journey so far, the historical background of the Lagos State Scholarship Board. The Lagos State Scholarship Board was established by the State Government in October 1968 under the Executive Council Memorandum No. LSEC (68) to serve as an advisory body on scholarship matters and to grant scholarship awards to deserving indigene students in various tertiary institutions on full time studies in order to assist the students financially. The Board commenced its official functions at a rented apartment in Lagos Mainland at No. 75, Brickfield Road, Ebute Metta, from 1968 to 1992. The Lagos State Scholarship Board later moved from the rented house to government accommodation in Maryland in 1992. A few years later, the Board was moved from Maryland premises due to the reallocation of the office accommodation to the state’s Primary Education Board that took over the office accommodation. On February 27, 1995 the Lagos State Scholarship Board moved to its present site at 254, Ipaja Road, besides the NYSC Orientation Camp in Agege, Lagos. Now, to answer your question on the role of the board, the functions of the Board include the following: We scrutinize application forms for bursary and scholarship awards; the Board also interviews the applicants to determine their claims to indigeneship and residency of the state. The Board also provides financial support in terms of bursary and scholarship awards to bona fide indigenes and residents of the state in higher institutions of learning within and outside Nigeria as may be prescribed in relevant regulations and guidelines, provided that only indigenes will be entitled to bursary awards and deliberate on other matters that may be assigned to it by the commissioner.

How do you determine who qualifies for the award of scholarship or bursary?

Yes, you need to also understand how we got to where we are. Prior to the metamorphosis of the scholarship awards (local, foreign scholarship and bursary awards) in 1979, the Board was giving only scholarship awards to deserving and brilliant students of Lagos State origin. However, the administration of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande redefined the scholarship awards to only bursary awards at a rate that would be determined by the individual’s field of studying. This new order was created to cater for the financial needs of a large number of indigene students of Lagos State in all the Nigeria tertiary institutions including the Law School. Surprisingly, in 1986 and 1989, during the military regime, the new bursary award was suspended. It was later re-introduced in the 1990/1991 academic session with various amounts ranging between N500 and N750 in accordance with the course of studying. Subsequently, in 1991/1992, a flat rate of N1,000 was introduced for all awardees. This was consistently implemented till the 1995/1996 academic session when the bursary award was increased to N5,000 for all undergraduate students. However, students with disabilities were awarded N20,000 for 1994/1995 while Law School students were awarded N40,000 for 1997/1998 respectively. Furthermore, another upward review of the bursary award was recorded in 1998 by the administration of Brig. General Buba Marwa (rtd) to the tune of N10,000 per student. The new rate was implemented in 1999 by former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Hence, the 1998/1999 awardees were the first set of students to collect N10,000. From 2009 to 2011, the administration of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) pronounced another increment in all categories of courses. Shortly after assumption of office, the bursary rates for the students with disability were increased to N40,000 from N25,000 per awardee.

But in all these, you have mentioned it appears only Lagos indigenes benefit from the gesture, any hope for a nonindigenes at all?

Of course, yes! It should be analysed that in 2001, a special scholarship award programme was initiated by the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for brilliant students, orphans, those athletes that won medals for the state and others who required humanitarian and financial assistance from the State Government, should be rewarded by sponsoring them to further their academic career in any Nigeria tertiary Institution. This type of scholarship is called ‘Compassionate Scholarship Award’ which is applicable to all residents of the state irrespective of their state of origin. However, this Compassionate Scholarship Award is mainly at the prerogative of the governor. This policy was adopted with a realistic approach for poverty alleviation to create and encourage the will for higher educational status and thus the development of the state generally.

How will you describe the performance of the board in the last three years?

The Lagos State Scholarship Board has been performing in a gradual and systematic way, especially in the sales of forms and payment of awards. In the 2017/2018 academic year the total number of students that benefited from the bursary award was 7,248. This figure includes beneficiaries at Law School and the Maritime Academy, Oron in Cross River State. Each beneficiary received a monetary award according to their course of studies. A total of N100,169,725 was approved and released by the government and it had been expended accordingly. In the Local Scholarship Category, 1,228 students benefited from the scheme. This covers undergraduates, masters and Ph.D. students. The sum of N152, 088, 390 was expended on the awardees. Foreign scholarship accounts for three beneficiaries with the sum of N19, 705, 511 expended in accordance with their course of studies. In 2017/18, the Lagos State Scholarship Board had a total number of 8,479 beneficiaries awarded scholarships (both local and foreign) and bursary awards totalling N271, 963, 626. For the year 2019/20 academic session, a total number of 4,941 students benefited from both the local and foreign scholarships and bursary awards with the total amount of N309, 918, 303.40 spent on them.

What should Lagosians expect from the Board, especially under your leadership?

The current administration of the Board has been unprecedented with a massive turn around in human capacity development, operational utility and infrastructure renewal. Already there have been remarkable improvements in the operations of the LSSB. The new administration brought on board an operation that is seamless, fast and reliable. Also, collection of registration forms is now done both electronically and physically. The Board has also witnessed another remarkable improvement in Indigeneship Verification Certificate (IVC) and Infrastructure.

How are you tackling the problem of awareness particularly among the students, who are expected to benefit from the bursary and scholarship?

Sensitization has taken a new dimension, the Board now visits campuses during any of their special programmes to sensitize the student populace about the opportunities availing them, while still using the normal method of sensitization.

One major challenge associated with the disbursement of the money for scholarship and bursary is the problem of corruption, how do you check corruption in the payment system?

Payment of monies to beneficiaries is now done electronically. Gone are the days of paying through Verve cards. During the first ever award ceremony organised for beneficiaries, it is on record that over 1,500 beneficiaries received credit alerts at the same time. This is unprecedented. The success of this has made some successful organisations wanting to partner with the Board for subsequent Award Ceremonies. I can boldly confirm to you that since the inception of the present administration, indigenes and nonindigenes have greatly enjoyed the magnanimous gesture and humane disposition of Mr. Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu through constant payment of Bursary and Scholarship Awards which is much needed financial support to sustain them in their academic growth. We are also giving N100,000 scholarships annually to each of the students in all the state’s technical schools. About 300 students have been captured in Epe already while about 1,200 across the state would be in the scheme.

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